Last year, I had the privilege to review Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood anime series for this site and it became one of my most memorable experiences in terms of reviewing anime. I knew nothing of the manga, nor the first season which already had a huge fan base. I was just so amazed at how compelling the characters, setting and story were in the Brotherhood series that I consider it one of the best shounen anime series ever made. One year has already passed and we have a new movie called Sacred Star of Milos; can it live up to the quality of the TV series?
Some of you may already have noticed that I’m not a stranger to this movie; I’ve already watched and reviewed the movie on the big screen at the BFI, but thankfully this release has given me chance to delve into it again and give more of an in-depth review.
Sacred Star of Milos was animated by studio BONES (the same studio behind all of the Full Metal Alchemist projects) and was directed by Kazuya Murata who has worked on the storyboards for Eureka Seven and Code Geass. The movie takes place around episode 20 – 21 of Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood; while the Elric brothers are doing important research during a festival, they see that the local prison is on fire. Luckily, while checking out the burning prison, they stumble upon an escaped prisoner named Melvin Voyager who also wields alchemic powers and has unfamiliar transmutation circles on his hands. Unfortunately, the criminal escapes and Colonel Mustang launches an investigation into what happened and who Melvin Voyager is.
The investigation leads to the land of Milos, a place where there is a rich civilised city in the centre and around the city there lies a distant valley of slums, filled with the poor and dirty housing. The people of the slums are preparing to rise up and claim back the land that was rightfully theirs. While in Milos, Alphonse saves one of the main characters of the movie, Julia Crichton, who grew up in the slums and also wishes to take back Milos, no matter what.So we have an tantalising set-up to what could be an interesting part of the Full Metal Alchemist story, but sadly this is not the case since this is all filler and all the characters unique to this movie will not appear again, which is a shame because I would have liked a better conclusion to their stories.
Gripes pop up again when you see that most of the characters you love from the original series only make short appearances. Looking at the DVD/Blu-ray art work, you would think that Riza Hawkeye and Roy Mustang have a bigger role in the movie but you hardly see them; the same goes for Alex Armstrong and Winry Rockbell. Lastly, I felt that the movie didn’t mix its serious tone and light humour effectively, which is strange since the Brotherhood series did that very well.
I sound a bit grim towards this movie so far but that’s not the whole case; highlights for me were the action and fluid animation when fights occur. There was a reason why they brought in Kazuya Murata to the team and it really does show; the climax at the end felt very tense and it’s thanks to that great animation, let alone the high definition of the Blu-ray release.
While the story is stand-alone, the political intrigue and mystery behind Milos is interesting enough to get you through the story but there’s nothing spectacular or memorable about it. I would have liked to have known more characters from the slums since some felt underdeveloped.
Lastly I felt that this movie tried to appeal not only to Alchemist fans but anime fans who don’t know the series that well; for example we get a brief talk from the Elric brothers about their body situation and the philosopher’s stone. I felt that it wasn’t very well implemented.
Which brings me to my final thoughts about the movie: while some Full Metal Alchemist fans might see the flaws in the movie, it’s still a well-made, visually stunning action flick and has enough intrigue to keep you watching the whole run-time.
Extras included an hour-long making of the movie which is narrated by the Japanese voice actors for the Elric brothers, which goes into massive detail about the movies production and how the movie was made. There is a US commentary on the movie with the ADR director Mike McFarland interviewing various voice actors who have been a part of Full Metal Alchemist for a long time and discussing their history as part of the franchise, also Matt Mercer (who voices Melvin Voyager) discusses his role in the movie. The web promos are also worth checking out; not only are they funny but they explain the history of Milos better than the movie did, which is a bit strange. Other extras include movie trailers, theatrical trailers and TV Spots.
The short OP track (Miwa – Chasing Hearts) is a calm acoustic ballad which plays while the Elric Brothers travel to Milos; I really like this track but it’s outshone by the ED (L’Arc~en~Ciel – Good Luck My Way) which is a rock song full of energy, adding strings and horns as the song continues. I really love this track.
In the end, the movie is only a slight disappointment when compared to the Brotherhood anime series, but it’s still a well- animated action film that makes it makes it worth the purchase.